Unable to meet its development needs wholly within the existing urban areas, Swindon is breaking the concrete collar that has long constrained the town’s expansion. Development has been tightly bound by the A419 dual carriageway, but the hard suburban edge is set to be breached through an ambitious growth agenda that includes five strategic urban extensions. Planit’s proposals for Lotmead Villages form the first of these, and one of the UK’s largest urban extensions.
A scattering of attractive villages beyond the grip of the A491 boundary formed the starting point for our long-term vision to achieve balanced and inclusive growth. It was these communities that prompted the question ‘What makes a good village?’
We undertook comprehensive research to determine how these conurbations embraced the distinctive assets of the wider rural landscape setting, to identify their unique characteristics and examine their sense of place. The same query was posed within a national and international context, drawing on best practice examples of Urban Design and placemaking across the UK and Europe to draw out common threads. Our conclusions of the Townscape and Precedent Study set out the elements that combine to create a place where people aspire to live, and consequently form the design cues for the Lotmead Villages proposals.
Our research, evidence-based methodology formed the starting point for the two village concept. Each village has its own local centre and a Primary School, and collectively they provide 2,600 homes. We introduced focal points for activity, a walkable (and cycle friendly) network of streets and connections to existing settlement. The proposals were influenced by the landscape context, incorporate innovative and sustainable design, whilst creating distinctive neighbourhoods.
Lotmead Villages are based on the site of an existing farm and pick-your-own business. The business cluster and a Scheduled Ancient Monument created a logical star point for the spatial organization of the village set within a strong rural landscape. A contemporary approach was taken to the creation of Lower Lotmead, utilising best practice urban design principles to create a sensitive urban/rural transition. The proposals have been embraced by the local stakeholders, and are acknowledged as fundamental to supporting the economic growth of Swindon and its sub regional context.